Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Gimme Shelter: The hunt for a venue

We've spent the weekend caked in peaty mud, and sometimes something suspiciously worse.
I say this not just as a comical anecdote: but the quest for a home for our wedding has seen Mr McCorry and I tramp around potential venues that looked to marry up nicely with our ideals (and some not so, but to please the parents we've had a look at some admittedly lovely Georgian piles) and thus through some very, very boggy fields in the hinterlands of Kent.

Given that we decided to look at this particular weekend past so that we could get the closest notion of how the settings would look in this gilded season of mists and mellow fruitfulness  that we plan to marry in - and yes, it is all ravishing shades of fire, russet and gold - we should perhaps have put trench-foot into the equation. Thus I will be the welly-wearing bride (I wonder if Louboutin do some? Marcasite rhinestone encrusted perhaps?), or perhaps I could bring back the patteen...

But, mud wrestling aside, we have learnt some very important lessons (and fallen in love twice) in the course of the past three days. And dear reader I'd like to share some sage tips with you...

1. Tales of the unexpected: I fell in love. With a barn. Exasperated by futile viewings at other venues that boded to be all that we hoped for, but in reality were often sorely lacking in the character and soul department, we had to rethink our strategy. A wildcard bolt to a lovely bucolic village just ten minutes from my parents home (and yet which I never knew existed) turned up a corker - a magnificent, bewitching 13th Century tithe barn, all bleached oak beams soaring into the rafters giving the appearance of an upturned galleon - which Toby loved, given his maritime leanings - tumbling hops and strung bulbs. Pity the fact then, that it is booked up until 2012. A lesson was learnt though - go and look at the rebel venue, the one waving its kooky flag with pride. It just might surprise you.

2. Don't fear the blank canvas: We increasingly found we didn't want every last detail trussied up and sorted for us like some mad aunt had been at it with a taste for botox, carnations and glitter. Ultimately a marriage and wedding are yours - highly personal, full of quirks, foibles and what make you special as a couple. Some venues are open to requests or negotiation, but will stand firm on the key aspects (and so perhaps they should - equally for a wedding venue to be right for you, it has to be right for them and what they pride themselves on - if you're trying to move too many mountains, you're probably not in the right topographic realm). Besides, quite what the heck a toastmaster is anyhow I don't know, unless you're planning on having crumpets. Which could be nice.

3. Do fear the Taxman: upon our return journey, I started to do some vague sums having been highly taken with the heady history and unabashed majestic rock n' roll of Penshurst Place - just outside of Tonbridge - and suddenly thought of the worst three letter acronym known to man. VAT.
In our madcap dash around the wilds of Kent seeking a venue, only one declared in print that their price was not inclusive of VAT, yet almost all of them on re-analysis had neglected to draw attention to this very costly fact. That VAT is rising to 20% next year should be a spur to all couples hoping to marry over the next few years - pay it all, up front now if you can or plead with your venue to accept the VAT with a deposit at this year's rates, while the VAT is admittedly nasty, but not as crippling as it is going to become.

4. Adopt a 'Marrakesh' attitude: Not as bananas as it sounds, but generally I found that when liaising with venues over the particulars (and especially if you are on a budget and they are doing their best subtle up-selling skills on you) smile and say no firmly - it works as well as it does on the crazy streets of Marrakesh - as it is kind and tolerant, but conveys your feelings with aplomb.

5. Count your blessings: Before you even start the quest for a venue, significant discussions need to happen - generally, due to the cost of a registrar (£400+) to validate your marriage, it is considerably more cost effective to marry in a church, temple, or the building of faith that at least one of you holds - or registry office. I was surprised by Toby's open-mindedness to a church wedding - though he is by far and away the most tolerant gentleman I know. He qualified with the irrverent fact that he hadn't spontaneously combusted on entering our village church, which made me love him even more. With said talk having happened, you can look to a wider range of venues for a reception, and save four hundred pounds for some superior champagne. Whoop!

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